Inspired by the worlds of nature and literature, Michael Matthews creates music that compels the listener to step beyond the everyday to dwell for a while in images of paradox, to consider the ever-changing tapestry of life. Matthews has a deep love for the contemporary symphonic tradition and has established himself as a master of large-scale musical structures, motivic relationships and organic wholeness, all of which lie at the core of symphonic thought. The symphony is, for Matthews, both a vital form and a special challenge that allows for musical ideas to be carried between movements. Compositional influences include Beethoven, Mahler, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Schnittke and, more recently, Scandinavian composers Pettersson and Aho. 

Versatile in form and style, Matthews’ compositions include: Prelude to Macbeth – a work that captures the sense of strangeness, emotional intensity and violence that pervade the famous Shakespeare play; The Language of Water – a commission for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra that treats each musician as a solo performer resulting in imaginative diversity of contrapuntal and textural possibilities for players and listeners alike; Particles of One – Concerto for Violin and Chamber Orchestra – a two-movement piece that opens lyrically and moves into quick, sometimes motoric rhythm; and Concerto for Piano and Orchestra consisting of five movements, the second and fourth of which are cadenzas (the first for orchestra, the second for the soloist) – this dual-cadenza structure makes a statement about the equality of the partnership between the orchestra and the piano, while providing a sense of balance around the central slow movement.

Michael Matthews has a distinguished history of performances. In October 2018 his new work A Star of Solitude, settings of poetry by Charles Simic, will be performed in Winnipeg on the GroundSwell new music series. Sarah Jo Kirsch, Aiyun Huang, Daniel Scholz and Micah Heilbrunn will perform with the composer conducting. In February 2017 Matthews’ work Septet was premiered in Calgary and Winnipeg by ensemble mosaik. Other recent premieres include Sólo queda el desierto (Montreal Chamber Orchestra) and String Quartet No. 4 (Penderecki Quartet). The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra premiered the newly commissioned work The Language of Water in September 2006. In July his work The Skin of Night was premiered at the World Saxophone Congress in Ljubljana, Slovenia. October 2005 saw the performance of Away, Tear Away at the prestigious Cervantino Festival in Mexico. In May of 2005 he oversaw the world premiere of his chamber opera Prince Kaspar, and in addition conducted the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra in the premiere of his Cello Concerto. In 2002 the world premiere recording of his Symphony No. 1 was released on TNC Records; Virko Baley conducted the Kiev Camerata Orchestra. In 2012 Matthews retired from full-time teaching at the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba and is now Professor Emeritus there. He recently finished writing a large song cycle for Laura Loewen and Dawn Bruch, based on texts by Canadian poet Dennis Cooley´s book Bloody Jack. Currently Matthews is working on a fifth string quartet and a fourth symphony.

Matthews has been the recipient of numerous commissions and awards; in 2016 he was elected to the Royal Society of Canada. He held a Rockefeller Foundation residency at the Bellagio Center in Italy. and in addition has been a participant in the Composition and Computer Music Seminar of the Bartók Festival in Szombathely, Hungary. His orchestral work Two Interludes was awarded a prize in the du Maurier Arts Ltd. New Music Festival Canadian Composers Competition. Matthews was the first Canadian to receive a prestigious commission from the International Computer Music Association. He has also received Canada Council and Manitoba Arts Council grants, the Winnipeg Rh Institute award for interdisciplinary research, a residency at the EMS computer music studios in Stockholm, Sweden, and a prize in the Premio Musicale Cittá di Trieste, Italy for his orchestral piece The Wind Was There. He has worked at the Banff Centre, at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University and, more recently, at the Centro Mexicano para la Música y las Artes Sonoras, in Morelia, Mexico, where he composed a piece for piano and tape commissioned for pianist Duane Cochran.


String Quartets

Release Date: August 14, 2015
Catalog Number: RR7910
21st Century
String Quartet
Inspired by the worlds of literature and nature, composer Michael Matthews, in his Ravello Records release, STRING QUARTETS, follows in the tradition of such 20th-century composers as Webern and Shostakovich, using his expressive musical language to explore existential and humanistic discourses about society, nature, and our place as individuals in the world.


Release Date: June 10, 2014
Catalog Number: RR7889
21st Century
The breadth of musical textures and colors capable of being produced by a piano and saxophone pairing is larger than expected. Turning expectations upside-down, METROPOLIS, the debut release on Ravello Records by the Harrington/Loewen Duo, comprised of saxophonist Allen Harrington and pianist Laura Loewen, highlights the adventurous and unpredictable approach to the two instruments.

Preludes & Bagatelles

Release Date: November 15, 2011
Catalog Number: RR7819
21st Century
Solo Instrumental
PRELUDES & BAGATELLES is the latest release from renowned composer Michael Matthews, featuring his dramatic 14 Preludes, selections from his collection of Bagatelles, and the epilogistic Postlude. Expertly performed by acclaimed Belgian pianist Daan Vandewalle, the pieces on this disc encapsulate Matthews’ brilliance with solo piano composition and highlight his versatile craftsmanship, which he is able to alter to accommodate a wide variety of moods, emotions, and aspects of musicality.